Avatar: Cowboys and Indians

I have seen the movie Avatar. It didn’t take me long to realize this was not a story about bioethics or about biotechnology. It was a morality tale. Evil modernism destroys natural sacredness. The subjugation of native peoples by European invaders. Custer’s last stand.

Indigineous peoples are portrayed as serene, cultured, civilized, loving, and, above all, living in harmony with their earth, Pandora. Corporations and their employees , agents of capitalism and technology, come against them, destroying all that is beautiful. Mining is evil. Profit is evil. Capitalism and technology are evil.

I thought of hard-core environmentalists living in trees to save them from loggers. The Home Tree was a Tree of Life, a sacred center place. (Home, the deepest of longings, is the image used.)  Interconnectedness, a fourth-grade value, is hallowed. Modernity is killing the place; send those evil humans back to their dying planet. Earth is dying because of human nature, greed and consumerism.

I saw a strange likeness between the spelling of the name of the “god” of the Na’vi, Ewah,  and Yaweh of the Hebrews. I didn’t know what to make of this.

I thought of Wordsworth’s poem, Intimations of Immortality, in which he says we come “trailing clouds of glory from God who is our home.” (Lines 59-66 in the linked poem.) When a slain Na’vi, dies, they go back to God. That’s when I thought of Wordsworth.

I heard a phrase from Iraqi war parlance. The corporate raiders were trying to “win hearts and minds”, just as US strategy calls for. This is a subtle dig at the US military.

Director James Cameron

Director James Cameron. Image from wikimedia.

Such irony. Millions of people have seen this mass-produced spectacle. They sit in comforts provided only by large-scale corporate bounty, mass-produced upholstery, natural gas-heated theaters, in clothes produced by global trading, wearing their technological 3D glasses. Cameron spent $300 million producing it, enough to “save” a sizable chunk of the Amazonian rain forest. To add insult to injury, I saw the movie in a theater in Las Vegas, that most contrived of places, as far from encountering sacred nature as one can get.

Ah, but the mythology tugs.

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5 Responses

  1. I saw Avatar — twice. Once alone and once with my wife and daughter. I agree that the Na’vi are portrayed like the romantic view of the American Indians — but the movie is about much more than that.

    Tom’s objection to Avatar is similar to that voiced by a number of Objectivists (Rand-admirers) I’m acquainted with. But there are others equally committed to reason, individualism, and capitalism who disagree.

    Avatar contains visions of pure beauty and benevolence similar to Cameron’s 1989 “The Abyss”. There are also element of the lost elegant world in his 1997 “Titanic” and warnings of the loss of soul in a runaway technology of his “Terminator”.

    The Na’vi are civilized and don’t seek the extermination of their vanquished enemies as do their opponents.

    Who, familiar with the history of the American west hasn’t heard “The only good Indian is a dead one”? What happened to the American Indians was indistinguisably close to genocide. Its painful as an American to admit but its true. The “Trial of Tears” forced march of the Cherokee from Georgia to Oklahoma was a death march. Custer was out to slaughter Indians, including women and children. Honesty and honor are not achieved through denial.

  2. Why is it always the Europeans are depicted as the evil colonial invaders. Why not Egyptians. Why not Mongolians are Chinese.

    I hate this racism man.

  3. Interconnectedness a fourth-grade value? Really Tom? You must clarify, for I thought it was at least a Middle School level.

    • Go easy on Tom. At such great intellectual heights, it’s difficult to distinguish where exactly in the Hierarchy of Wisdom lesser virtues fall.

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